Many of us who have worked in the field of public history, particularly that of 19th-century American history and the American Civil War when presenting a program on a battlefield or a lecture hall often receive the comment before or after of “I had an ancestor in the Civil War,” from attendees. Having those familial connections most certainly makes those bonds to our past even stronger. As historians we are always ready to learn and hear of another unique experience through your ancestor’s eyes. However, when we begin to ask those probing questions that will garnish vital information on their war experience the next responses we normally hear are, “I’m not sure,” or, “I don’t know.”
Have you ever wanted to know more about your Civil War ancestor’s wartime experience? Maybe you have hit a dead-end in researching your family’s history. Have you ever wondered how historians and interpreters discover so much amazing information about individual soldiers? Well here is your chance to learn how to research individual soldier’s stories!
Over the next several weeks I will be guiding you through the various angles and steps in researching this generation of Americans using my own personal trials of discovering my ancestor’s stories. I will be introducing you to many resources that you may be familiar with and even more that have gone wholly unused.
To get started in our weekly interactive blog series, you will need your ancestor’s or soldier’s name, and even better, what side or state they fought with. If you are unsure of this beginning information necessary to get started, try the NPS Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database. It’s a free online tool, and, although not comprehensive or mistake-proof, will help you to get started.
Once you have completed your research, post their name, state, or even unit in the comments below. If you have more information on them post that as well.
My Civil War ancestral tree is quite small, with just two soldiers from my family that served. One of those men, from New York, only lasted for several weeks as he joined with a foot disability and when the marching started he simply could not keep up. He was discharged by September 1861. Through our interactive blog series I will be guiding you using my research on my other Civil War ancestor. His name was Uriah Roe and he enlisted in the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the “Roundheads,” in the winter of 1864.
If you have any stumbling blocks along the way, feel free to post below in the comments!